Tag Archives: Shannon Dea

Wednesday November 5, 2014

The first Phil Soc meeting of the year!

The first Phil Soc meeting of the year!

Hi everyone and welcome to November! First, let us note with pleasure that the first undergraduate PhilSoc Social of the school year (October 9) was marked by good pizza, camaraderie, and lively conversation! PhilSoc faculty liaison Greg Andres writes, “The event was held in the Philosophy Learning Commons, and was attended by many first year students, philosophy majors, non-majors, grad students, and faculty. Many thanks to everyone who helped make this event a success.” 

We have some great grad student news this posting. On October 17, Kurt Holukoff successfully defended his dissertation Politics, Principles and Pluralism: On why Liberalism Must be Inconsistent if Correct. His supervisor Dave DeVidi writes, “In his dissertation, Kurt argues that political liberalism necessarily involves not only pluralism about how to live, but also pluralism—that is, a variety of conflicting but correct theories—about the appropriate principles for the organization of societies. He suggests that the result must be revisions to our understanding of concepts we routinely use in ways that presume consistency (such as obligation), and he develops a new approach to paraconsistent deontic logic to show the whole business is coherent (even if not consistent). An examiner described his handling of questions at the defense as ‘masterful.’ As his supervisor, I was very impressed with the breadth and boldness of the project, and find it hard to believe that I had to lobby long and hard to get Kurt to chop two further chapters from the end. Well done, Kurt!” Yes, congratulations from all of us, Kurt!

Also, graduate student Darlene Drecun  tell us, “In October I was able to present a paper at the Globality, Unequal Development, and Ethics of Duty conference jointly organized by Alternative Perspectives and Global Concerns (APGC), the School of International Development and Global Studies (EDIM) at the University of Ottawa and the Department of Philosophy and Centre on Values and Ethics (COVE) at Carleton University. There were many interesting talks presented by scholars from all over the world, and I had a great time! It was particularly interesting to hear the talks presented by professors from the philosophy department at Carleton University, Jay Drydyk and Christine Koggel, as well as the organizer of the conference, Mahmoud Masaeli from the University of Ottawa. I presented a paper called ‘Justice Duties of Health Development: Sustainable Short-Term Medical Missions.’ My paper argued that surgeons involved in short-term surgical medical missions in the developing world have a justice-based duty to develop the local health infrastructure in order to provide medical services that are not of a lower quality than would be performed in their country of origin. I argued for surgeons’ justice duties of health development using the example of short-term obstetric fistula surgery missions.” Here’s a picture from the conference with Professor Jay Drydyk and Professor Mahmoud Masaeli:


Graduate student Darlene Drecun with colleagues at the Globality, Unequal Development, and Ethics of Duty conference.

Graduate Student Ramesh Prasad writes, “I gave an invited presentation to the Nephrology Division at the London Health Sciences Centre on October 22 entitled, ‘A Moral Argument against a Regulated System of Kidney Sales.’ This was based on my PHIL420 term paper from two years ago and was very well received.”

Graduate student Cathy Gee has also been conferencing. She writes,  “I recently attended the Free Will conference put on by the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics in Flint, MI October 10 & 11th. I presented a paper titled ‘Exploring the Status of Free Will in Anorexia Nervosa’ and had a great time. The conference organizers strive to make their conferences as interdisciplinary as possible and as a result, even though there is no shortage of literature on the free will topic, the talks were still new and exciting.”

Great work everyone!

Heather Douglas writes, “I participated in a panel on Climate Change:  What is to be Done?  at Western University on Oct. 23, with Gary Brown, Radoslav Dimitrov, and Jeffrey Simpson. I talked about why climate science is politicized and what to do about it.   It was a fun and interesting discussion, far more optimistic than I would have predicted.  The end result of the discussion was that there is a lot that can be done right now, and lots of opportunities for change across a range of institutions and social governance levels.  I also gave a talk as part of UW’s Knowledge Integration’s seminar series on Oct. 3, entitled “Philosophical Analysis in an Interdisciplinary Mode.” It was great fun to talk about how philosophy, as a normative discipline doing conceptual analysis, works with empirical disciplines, and how the direction of change between philosophy and empirical disciplines goes both ways.”

Shannon Dea says, “Last month at UBC, I gave a talk, “Abortion and Post-Normal Ethics Pedagogy” as part of a Western Canadian Philosophical Association (WCPA) panel discussion on Karen Houle’s Responsibility, Complexity and Abortion. And last week, I was interviewed on 570News (a local radio station) regarding the Catholic Synod on the Family, and its recent discussions on LGBTQ inclusion in Catholic congregations.”

Matt Doucet writes, On Oct. 8th, I gave a talk at the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics on ‘Implicit Bias in Medicine’. Carla Fehr and I have been working on a project on the consequences of implicit bias among physicians, and on the problems with the strategies proposed for addressing that bias. The audience at the JCB were very interested in the issue, and had many very helpful and fascinating suggestions. A live stream of the talk is available here. Also, I’ve just returned from St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I attended the Atlantic Region Philosophical Association meetings to present my work on ‘Moral Responsibility and the Limits of Self-Assessment.’ I also took the opportunity to hike, with some other philosophers, to the most easterly point in the Americas.” Wow, nice picture Matt!


Tim Kenyon’s on sabbatical! He writes, “From October 1-3 I was at Lund University, where I gave a Philosophy colloquium talk, ‘Content Dissolution,’ and a seminar talk, ‘Against Disaggregation’. The former talk points out a worry with the view that testimony is rationally acceptable unless the audience has “defeaters” (championed by Tyler Burge in a famous paper called ‘Content Preservation’). The worry is that the content and truth-value of testimony can change over time in gradual ways that don’t actually amount to a defeater.  And on November 4 I gave a talk, ‘Testimony, belief, and real people,’ to the Mind, Language and Action Group at the University of Porto. This is a talk that focuses on the large difference it makes to social epistemology if you factor in the small socio-communicative details of testimony rather than abstracting them away.” Here’s a picture  from Lund of the fall colour of ivy in southern Sweden:

CAM00199And another picture, of Porto, not far from the university, as seen from across the Rio Douro.


What a beauty spot! 

Recent Faculty Publications:

Shannon Dea, “Peirce and Spinoza’s Pragmaticist Metaphysics” has just appeared in Cognitio 15.1 (2014) 25-35 (available online athttp://revistas.pucsp.br/index.php/cognitiofilosofia/article/view/20978).

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Thanks for reading!

— Patricia Marino


Wednesday, Sept 24, 2014

Hi everyone, first we have some exciting graduate student news, which is that Micheal McEwan had a successful defense on Tuesday September 23rd of his dissertation “A Study of the Discursive Aspect of Scientific Theorizing and Modeling.” As Mike’s supervisor I want to say yet again: our heartiest congratulations, Mike! Above, Mike celebrates with us post-defense at the grad house.
Graduate student Jim Jordan says, “I’ve had the privilege of working with Linda Warley (Associate Dean, Graduate Studies), Aimée Morrison (English), Robert Zacharias (postdoctoral fellow in English), Jeff Wilson (Religious Studies), Andrew Thompson (Political Science/BSIA), and Anindya Sen (Economics) on the Faculty’s alternative careers task force. The first fruits of our shared labour, the Arts Graduate Careers portal, is now available to all. The website includes a description of the Department’s most recent non-academic career workshop which was held in April. This is but a start; I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for the task force.” Excellent news, Jim!
John Turri writes to report on the Waterloo contingent at the 2014 Buffalo Experimental Philosophy Conference, at which five people from Waterloo philosophy and the Philosophical Science Lab presented research. John writes, “Overall, the conference was an awesome event, with people from all around the world​ (e.g. England, Sweden, Belgium, Japan, Canada, USA)​ presenting really exciting and valuable research at the intersection of science and philosophy, and getting lots of encouraging and constructive feedback. Here is a quick summary of the contributions by Waterloo philosophers (in chronological order as they appeared on the program):
  • Janet Michaud and Ashley Keefner presented research on the controversial “Mr. Big” technique used by the RCMP​ (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)​ to elicit confessions in criminal cases. In this completely novel line of research, Janet and Ashley found that several aspects of the technique are widely judged to be coercive, which has potentially important implications for whether confessions elicited this way should be admissible in court.
  • Sara Weaver presented research on judgments of personal identity. Building on prior work on identity judgments in the life and social sciences — and contrary to the consensus in the recent philosophical literature — Sara found that our concept of personal identity seems to allow for one person to be embodied in two entirely different places at a single time.
  • Wesley Buckwalter presented research on the relationship attributions of ability and moral obligations, an important but previously unstudied aspect of moral psychology. Wesley found that being unable to to perform a certain task is perfectly consistent with being morally obligated to perform the task, strongly suggesting that “ought implies can” is not a principle of ordinary moral cognition.
  • Finally, I presented research on the relationship between judgments of knowledge and reliability. I found that, according to the ordinary concept of knowledge, knowledge does not have to be reliably produced, which strongly suggests that reliabilist theories of knowledge are deeply revisionary.
  • ​Also, at least some (but not all!) of us also ate Buffalo Wings in the very bar where Buffalo Wings were invented.​​
The X-phi gang passed along a great picture as well!
Heather Douglas writes, “The last week of August, I traveled to New Zealand at the invitation of Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to New Zealand, to speak at the conference Science Advice to Governments.  It was a meeting that brought together leading science advisors from all over the world.  The conference was really fun and interesting, and I got to meet lots of great people and hear about the real challenges of giving science advice.  I also wrote three essays about and for the conference, one in the Guardian, one for the conference blog, and one for Evidence4Democracy. I spoke as part of the closing panel on modes of science advice.  Here I am with Mark Ferguson (Chief Science Advisor to Ireland) as part of that panel and asking a question as part of the audience.  It was definitely worth the trip!”
15069059135_22c5188149_o Working In NZ 2014

Doreen Fraser writes, “I just returned from a trip to Oxford and Florence.  In Florence, I participated in a workshop on dualities in string theory.  Dualities are philosophically interesting because they are cases in which, faced with theories that are mathematically distinct and apparently physically distinct, physicists arrive at the judgment that the theories are in fact not physically distinct.  The workshop provided an opportunity for philosophers with different backgrounds to analyze dualities from different perspectives and to share expertise.  While in Florence, I also saw some of Galileo’s telescopes and an interesting collection of instruments used for physics demonstrations in salons in the 18th and 19th centuries at the Museo Galileo.

Shannon Dea says, “Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing my latest research on abortion and harm reduction with colleagues in the region. On September 11, at Western University, the Southwestern Ontario Feminism and Philosophy Workshop discussed my paper “Beyond Choice: An Ecological Approach to Abortion Access.” Last Friday, September 19, I delivered the same paper to the McMaster Department of Philosophy colloquium series. And two days earlier, at the Kitchener Public Library, as part of the One Book One Community events concerning Charlotte Gray’s The Massey Murder, I delivered a talk called “Women, Chastity, and the Law.”

Finally, here are a few photos from our Department’s welcome party!

IMG_0598 IMG_0609 IMG_0599

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Thanks for reading!

– Patricia Marino

Wednesday May 21, 2014


Another great campus photo by Vicki Brett.

Hi everyone,

First, we have some exciting news from recent PhD alum Paul Simard-Smith – he won a SSHRC post-doc! Paul writes, “I was happy to learn that I will be taking up a two year SSHRC post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT starting in September 2014. The research I plan to do during my postdoc expands and takes in new directions the work I did in my PhD dissertation at the University of Waterloo. The broad objective of my research at UCONN will be to contribute to a growing body of literature in the philosophy of logic that is attempting to develop a plausible version of logical pluralism—the claim that two or more logics are correct. There are two specific aspects of this project that I plan to make headway on. First, I will address an important problem that I think faces many interesting versions of logical pluralism: the problem of how conflicting logics can be correct without the disagreement between the conflicting logics being merely verbal. Second, the literature on logical pluralism to date has not examined the implications that logical pluralism has on other areas of inquiry outside the philosophy of logic. During my post-doc research I will remedy this by exploring some implications that I think logical pluralism has for legal and mathematical reasoning. I am grateful to the faculty in the philosophy department at the University of Waterloo who provided an excellent departmental climate for graduate students. In particular I am appreciative of the guidance and support of my thesis supervisor David DeVidi and my other thesis committee members Doreen Fraser and Tim Kenyon.” Our warmest congratulations, Paul!

Next, we’d like to share some great pictures from our awards ceremony.


Brian Orend giving the Second Year Prize to Xiangbo Kong.


Here I am (Patricia Marino) giving the the Third Year Prize to Carlos Fuentes.


Matt Doucet giving the Fourth Year Prize to Julia Hill.

Chris Lowry giving the Special Citizenship Prize to Paul O’Hagan

Chris Lowry giving the Special Citizenship Prize to Paul O’Hagan


Matt Doucet awarding the Judy Wubnig Graduate Essay Prize in Philosophy to Ian MacDonald.

Tim Kenyon giving the Angus-Kerr Lawson paper prize to A. Y. Daring.

Tim Kenyon giving the Angus-Kerr Lawson paper prize to A. Y. Daring.

A couple of prize winners were sadly absent: First year prize: Amy Moore, and undergraduate Judy Wubnig Essay prize: Daniel Misiewicz.

Congratulations to all!

In other news, Paul Thagard writes, “I’ve talks at conferences on the social simulation of science (Leiden), roots of empathy (Toronto), and cognitive/functional approaches to psychology (Ghent).”

And Heather Douglas moderated a Town Hall Meeting (see the poster below) and ended up doing a CBC morning show interview as a result. The Faculty of Arts write-up is here; check it out!

Doreen writes with some excellent news: A few weeks ago Bright Starts, the on campus daycare, held its Grand Opening celebration, which was a happy occasion for a number of us in the Department. The new centre is housed in a brand new, purpose-built facility and is an amalgamation of the three original on campus daycare centres. I worked on this project as a member of various committees and the Board of Directors. When I began, my sons were 1 and 4 and enrolled in Paintin’ Place daycare on campus. Now that the new facility is complete, they are both too old for daycare, but I am pleased to see more daycare spaces available for infants and toddlers and campus. This is particularly important in the infant age group, where the doubling of the number of spaces from 10 to 20 represented a significant increase in the number of licensed spaces available in the entire Region of Waterloo (= only 196!). In his various roles with the Faculty Association, Dave also committed a substantial amount of time, energy and expertise to this project. Here is a photo of Dave receiving (on behalf of FAUW) a gift made by the children:


Shannon Dea, on sabbatical, writes, “I’ve just finished a whirlwind ten days here in Sheffield (and beyond). It began May 10 when I presented Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo to a full house at the local repertory cinema, The Showroom, as part of Sheffield Philosophy’s Philosophy at the Showroom public outreach series. The series combines film screenings with brief lectures and philosophical discussion. I chose Vertigo because it’s a film I’m often tempted to screen when I teach PHIL 202/WS 222 “Gender Issues” at Waterloo, but one that I never manage to squeeze into the course schedule. I think that Vertigo is a great “petri dish” in which to examine Simone de Beauvoir’s thesis that women are constructed as women, not born that way. For my mini-lecture, I sketched Beauvoir’s view and some of the little-known historical and literary connections between the film and Beauvoir’s 1949 book The Second Sex. The discussion that followed was vigourous and stimulating, and only came to a close when it did because the cinema needed the room for the next screening.

“The next day, I headed to Paris for back-to-back conferences at Collège de France and the Sorbonne. The first conference concerned Charles Sanders Peirce: Logic and Metaphysics. My talk there, “Peirce and Spinoza: Logical and Metaphysical Aspects,” was derived from the book on Peirce and Spinoza I’m working on while on sabbatical. The next day, at the Logic in Question IV workshop at Paris-Sorbonne, I took part in a panel discussion on ‘Peirce Today.’

“It was really exciting to get to walk the corridors and engage in philosophical discussion at two such venerable universities. Paris-Sorbonne is the descendent of the original Sorbonne University that was founded in the 13th century. Collège de France was founded in 1530 right across the street from the Sorbonne. Indeed, its location was intentionally provocative. The founders of Collège de France opposed the Jesuitical leadership and values of the Sorbonne and wished to provide, in full sight of the Sorbonne, a humanistic alternative. Since its founding to this very day, Collège de France continues to hold its faculty meetings during Sunday mass as a way of symbolically reaffirming its resistance to Jesuit orthodoxy. (Such a far cry from our friendly relationship with the philosophers across the street from us at Wilfrid Laurier!)

“Over the years, Collège de France has employed such eminent philosophers as Pierre Ramée, Pierre Gassendi (so many Pierres!), Henri Bergson and Michel Foucault, all of whose names and images are prominently displayed (along with those of other former faculty) around the tiny campus. Some years back, a few of us in the Philosophy Department at Waterloo took part in a Latin reading group, where we focused on some of Ramée’s work. Our recently retired colleague, Joe Novak went on to give conference talks and to publish on Ramée. While I was disappointed to miss Joe’s retirement party last month, seeing Ramée’s bust was a really pleasant reminder of my time spent declining Latin nouns with Joe. Here’s a photo of the bust from the Collège de France courtyard:


“Once back at Sheffield, I got to help welcome a gaggle of Canadian (and other) philosophers to the department for the conference on The Nature and Value of Childhood. While I haven’t engaged in much ex-pat socializing during my time abroad, it was a huge treat to get to hike in Peak District National Park with Samantha Brennan:


“Finally, yesterday, I was able to meet up with Wesley Buckwalter, who was visiting Sheffield from Waterloo to give a talk on experimental philosophy and the alleged intuition that ought implies can. True to Wesley’s empirical bent, he and I systematically examined the range of excellent hand-pulled local ales available in Sheffield pubs. Another blow for science struck by Waterloo Philosophy’s dedicated researchers!

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Thanks for reading!

— Patricia Marino

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hi everyone,

It’s end of term! To start things off, here’s a great picture graduate student Rosalind Abdool took last weekend, of some Department grad students finishing up papers, grading and working on their dissertations for the busy end of term.  Excellent : )


We’ve been doing some celebrating around here. On April 11, the department held a colloquium and reception in honour of recently retired department member Joe Novak. You can read all about Joe Novak in an earlier blog posting when we announced his retirement last August.

Dept. Chair Dave DeVidi writes, “For the colloquium, we invited one of our PhD alumni who worked closely with Joe, Paul Rusnock of the University of Ottawa. Rusnock proved an ideal choice.  His talk, “Mathesis universalis in Bohemia: Bolzano on collections” was very well adapted to the likely audience for a retirement event for someone like Joe. Joe has friends all over campus and so the audience could be predicted to include everyone from specialists on the topic to academics who are not philosophers to people from outside the academy entirely.  Rusnock was especially impressive during the question period, wearing his vast learning in the field very lightly and—something I always appreciate when I see it—demonstrating the ability to find something interesting in every question from the floor.  The timing was also good in that Rusnock’s monumental translation of Bolzano’s Theory of Science, in four volumes, has just been published by Oxford University Press. This is joint work with another emeritus member of the department, Rolf George. After the talk, there was a lively reception.  The occasion brought back many familiar faces. As usual at such events, there was much reminiscing, and everyone got a chance to chat with Joe and wish him well. Entirely appropriately for an event devoted to Joe, much chocolate was consumed. Thanks, Joe, for all you’ve done for the department.”  Yes, Joe, Thank you!!

The Department is also very pleased to announce that Greg Andres will be joining us as a permanent faculty member, at the rank of Lecturer, beginning July 1.  Chair Dave DeVidi writes, “His work will include coordinating the department’s business ethics offerings for the various “X and Business” programs on campus—which we teach to over 1000 students per year—and mentoring grad students who are just beginning their careers as teachers. Greg completed a PhD at the University of Western Ontario in the philosophy of logic, but his research interests have since moved in the direction of philosophy of economics and business ethics. He has been an extremely successful sessional teacher on campus for several years, and in 2013 was the inaugural winner of the Faculty of Arts Teaching Award.  His is currently an Instructor and the Instructional Support Developer with the Professional Development program on campus.” Welcome, Greg!

In graduate students news, Ben Nelson successfully defended his dissertation proposal and is now ABD! His title is tentatively:  On Unwritten Laws: a Treatise on the Concept of Implicit Legal Norms.” Congratulations, Ben!

Heather Douglas has been busy traveling and conferencing. She says,  “I had a 2-talk trip to St. Louis April 10 and 11. First, I gave a talk at Washington University on Scientific Integrity, where I explored the pluses and minuses of going with a narrow or a broad interpretation of the concept. The audience was a torn as I was between the two views. I also got to have great conversations with Anya Plutynski and Carl Craver, and Eric Hochstein sent a big shout out to the department here! Then on April 11 I gave a talk about Responsible Science in Democratic Societies at St. Louis University. That talk argued that while scientists have certain prima facie freedoms, those were not unlimited, and, further moral responsibilities set additional standards for their work. Kent Staley was a great host. Sadly I had to missed Joe’s party while in St. Louis.

“More recently, I spent Friday April 25 at the University of Guelph, engaged in a conversation about the relationship between psychology and STS, and what a psychological perspective could bring to science studies. The short answer was, quite a lot. Here is a picture of the group convened by Kieran O’Doherty and Jeff Yen, including people as far away as Lisa Osbeck from Western Georgia and Hank Stam from Calgary:


Shannon Dea has also been busy with talks, including three recent ones. She writes, “First was “On Harm Reduction.” This was my keynote talk as guest speaker for Bristol University’s annual student philosophy conference. It’s held every year at Cumberland Lodge, a swanky academic retreat operated by one of the Queen’s foundations. The buildings date to the 17th century, and sit on the grounds of Windsor Castle. Definitely the best linens I’ve ever slept in while attending a philosophy conference! My most British talk ever. Second was “Beyond Choice: An Ecological Approach to Abortion.” This was part of the Cardiff University Departmental Seminar. And finally, I presented “Towards a Peircean Metaphysics of Sex” to the Applying Peirce 2 Workshop, Nordic Pragmatism Network, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia and the University of Helsinki, Finland.”

More informally, Shannon also writes to tell us of a philosophical excursion. She says, “Recently I got to fulfill one of my dreams by undertaking a walking journey from, as it were, one end of 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s life to the other. I walked approximately 75 kilometres — from Spinoza’s birthplace in Amsterdam to his home in Rijnsburg (a little town near Leiden), to his later homes in Voorburg and the Hague, and finally to his grave, also in the Hague. The walking itself took about 19 hours over the course of two days, these days broken up by other days in which I visited the various Spinoza sites So, the whole pilgrimage occupied five days — two days of walking, three days of exploring Spinoza’s places. Retracing Spinoza’s biography the slow way and seeing first-hand the places he lived reconnected me to what I love so much in Spinoza’s thought — his patience, his rigour, his humility, his conviction that we are deeply connected to the natural world, and his insistence that the divine is immanent in that world, not transcendent. I expect that I’ll be doing some semi-scholarly writing about this journey in the future. For now, here’s a short blog post I wrote about my walk (http://fitisafeministissue.com/2014/03/21/lessons-from-spinoza-guest-post/), and here it is again, reblogged in Dutch (http://spinoza.blogse.nl/log/hoever-de-spinoza-liefde-kan-gaan.html).
Matt Doucet’s been traveling as well, and is currently in Amsterdam at a workshop at VU University on ‘Responsibility: The Epistemic Dimension’ that explores the question of whether ignorance is an excusing condition for moral responsibility. Matt says, “I presented a paper on ‘Moral responsibility and the limits of self-assessment’, got some excellent feedback, and took in some great talks.”
Matt also wrote to tell us about his grad seminar: “The students in my Responsibility and Punishment graduate seminar presented their papers at a day-long mini-conference on Monday, April 14th. The papers were uniformly excellent, and covered a wide range of topics, from punishing the innocent to the the ethics of slur appropriation to the cognitive science of emotional regulation.”
Finally, I have a bit of news myself. A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Joint Centre for Bioethics Seminar series on “Dilemmas and Disagreement: Moral Coherence and Justification in Pluralistic Contexts.” It was wonderful discussing abstract philosophical issues with some ethics practitioners. I am also recently back from the Pacific APA, where the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love put on two sessions — you can read more about them here.
Finally, we had a wonderful awards ceremony honoring prize winners and others! Since we’re still getting the pictures developed (ha ha, just a little joke for all you non-millenials out there) we’ll tell you all about it next time.
Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Thanks for reading!

— Patricia Marino

Wednesday January 22, 2014

Hi everyone and welcome to Winter 2014!


Stuffed geese, at the UW campus store.

First, some exciting graduate student news:  back in December Tracy Finn defended her PhD dissertation. Her thesis was “Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Case Study in Causation and Explanation in Psychiatric Conditions.” Sounds fascinating, and our warmest congratulations, Tracy!

In other graduate student news, Cathy Gee tells us her paper, “The Role of Emotional Intuitions in Moral Judgments and Decisions,” was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics. Wonderful news!

Tim Kenyon says, “A paper I co-wrote with Guillaume Beaulac (PhD candidate at Western) recently won the 2013 Essay Prize from the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking. The paper is called ‘Critical Thinking and Biases’, and a version of it is available here.”
Carla passes along some updates about the Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering: “Tiffany Lin and I just got the website up and running for the Consortium. We are adding content every day. Katie Plaisance and I spearheaded the formation of this international group of universities, and so far,  Katie  Plaisance, Heather Douglas, Paul Thagard and I represent Waterloo in this organization.  Check out the new webapge here: http://srpoise.org
In other science in society news, Heather Douglas writes to tell us of a trip to Arizona: “I participated in a Board of Visitors meeting for the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, Jan. 6-7, at Saguaro Lake.  I got to hear about all the research CNS has been conducting, talk to their students at the Anticipatory Governance School, and generally have great conversations about science, technology, and the public.  Here I am at the Saguaro Lake Ranch, where it all took place:
Also, a paper in Philosophy of Science came out, The Value of Cognitive Values, which organizes the various cognitive and epistemic values so often discussed by philosophers and shows that they are appropriate for different functions in scientific reasoning, thus reducing the tensions among them. A link to the article is here.” Heather has also been elected as a member of the Electorate Nominating Committee (ENC) of the Section on History & Philosophy of Science of the AAAS for 2013.”
Shannon Dea writes from her sabbatical, “On January 8, I gave a talk called ‘The Nice Bloke Trap’ for British Philosophy heads of department, journal editors and representatives of learned societies. The talk was part of a panel at the University of London co-organized by the British Philosophical Association and the UK Society for Women in Philosophy to introduce those groups’ new joint ‘good practices’ guides for supporting women in Philosophy. The guides are  useful and well crafted, and the response to the event by audience members was extremely positive, with quite a rich group discussion at the end of the panel. The other panelists were Jennifer Saul, Rae Langton, Paul Lodge and Helen Beebee. It was a huge treat to get to talk about inclusivity in the discipline with these distinguished philosophers.”
Finally, I have my own news: my Philosophy Compass survey article, “Philosophy of Sex,” is out. It covers some topics you might expect, like objectification, rape, and queer theory, and some you might not, like polyamory, the medicalization of sexual desire, and the need for a theory of sexual justice. Check it out here! If you can’t access this version, contact me by email.
Also, I am excited to be teaching a new Special Topics course on Philosophy of Economics this term. If you’re curious, you can check out the syllabus.
Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.
And thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hi everyone and welcome to week 12, OMG. Vicki Brett aptly suggested her photo of the statue in front of Modern Languages would sum up how everyone feels by the end of Fall term:

ML Fountain 2

We have some exciting graduate student news. Natalie Evans had a successful defense of her thesis on November 14th. Natalie’s dissertation, “Agency and Autonomy: A New Direction for Animal Ethics,” examined the obligations we owe to animals in virtue of respecting their agency and autonomy, a departure from the more typical considerations of welfare. As her supervisor, I am so happy to say, Congratulations Natalie! Since we didn’t take pictures, I’ll put here a photo from Wikipedia of a cute dog doing the famous mirror test:


In faculty and admin news, Tim Kenyon says, “I gave a presentation ‘Research measures and rankings’ at the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators in Fredericton on November 22.”
Our far-flung correspondent Shannon Dea, now on leave, writes to say, “On Nov. 4, I gave a plenary address on “Peirce and Spinoza’s Pragmaticist Metaphysics” in at the 15th International Meeting on Pragmatism at the Catholic Pontifical University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. (The talk was part of the book I’m working on while on sabbatical.) Here’s a photo of me at what might just be the world’s best samba bar with Argentian scholars Horacio Hector Mercau (Universidad Nacional de La Plata) and Catalina Hynes (Universidad Nacional de Tucuman):
Shannon Dea with colleagues in Sao Paulo
The conference drew participants from throughout the Americas and Europe. I’m delighted to report that by the end of the conference, my thesis that Spinoza was, for Peirce, an important early pragmatist had taken hold. The two final plenary speakers both included nods to my view in their own talks. It was great to get to exchange ideas with members of South America’s very active community of Peirce scholars, but also to spend time with my fellow plenary speakers, who are all distinguished scholars of American pragmatism. And, to my delight, some of that time involved samba dancing and drinking caipirinhas (Brazil’s distinctive cocktail).”
Heather Douglas gave a plenary keynote talk at an international conference at the University of Copenhagen on “The Special Role of Science in a Liberal Democracy.”  Heather says, “The conference was very interesting and brought together political philosophy, philosophy of science, and ethical perspectives on science, and showed the complexity of this terrain very well.  The conference website is here:  http://mcc.ku.dk/research/focus-areas/sciencedemocracy/international-conference-on-the-special-role-of-science-in-liberal-democracy/  It was great to see old friends there and to make new ones!
Finally, we asked an alum of our undergraduate program, Adam Jensen, for an update on what he’s been doing lately, and here’s his interesting story:

“Since graduating from UW’s philosophy program in 2007, I have been working at various locations of Conestoga College. I began as a part-time employee working a few hours a week, but with determination, grit, and well-timed retirements of colleagues, I am now a Professor and Program Coordinator at the Guelph campus. I work in the Preparatory Programs, a little-known area which helps students gain courses needed for admission to college programs (I mainly teach English, and we also offer math and sciences) or helps students prepare for the GED test (high school equivalency). Our programs are free for students since we receive funding from the provincial government, and our mandate is to improve our students’ short- or long-term employment prospects. As you might imagine, it can be very rewarding to help individuals improve their situation in life, often helping them move from monotonous work (or no work at all) to a satisfying new career path. The way I see it, our role will only become more significant because more and more jobs require a post-secondary education; we can help those who are not prepared for that education.

“Although I do not use philosophy directly in my work, I find the strategies and thinking skills I developed at UW invaluable to my role and hope that I am able to impart some of these to my students as well. Students will not leave our programs with knowledge of Plato or Kant, but I feel that if we can help them to improve their reading, writing, and thinking skills, we can not only aid their transition to employment or further education but also foster more engaged citizens.

“I encourage those studying philosophy to consider adult education as a future career field. After all, there are only so many philosophy professor positions out there, and it is much easier to explain subject-verb agreement and essay structure than logical positivism and incompatibilist theories of free will.

Sound great, Adam!

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.
And thanks for reading!
— Patricia Marino

Wednesday October 30, 2013


Thanks to Vicki Brett for this wonderfully autumnal photo of a crow in a tree on campus.

Hi everyone, as Vicki’s picture attests, we are in full autumn-mode here in the Waterloo area. It’s incredible that there are only four more weeks of classes!

First up in graduate student news, Jim Jordan writes, “I presented a paper called “Closing a Route to Logical Pluralism” at the 50th Western Canadian Philosophical Association conference held from October 18th to 20th in Winnipeg. My paper looks at Gillian Russell’s presentation of two arguments that appear to be valid or invalid depending on whether their premises and conclusions are understood as natural language sentences or formalizable propositions. She suggests that this might be a route to some kind of logical pluralism; I argue that the difference is already made before the logical judgement of validity comes into play. This isn’t enough to settle the question of logical pluralism–we need to figure out what we want and are willing to accept as “logical” before we can answer the question of a plurality of logics.

Incidentally, in the conversation after one of the sessions, I found out that professor emeritus Rolf George and alumnus Paul Rusnock have finished translating over 3000 pages Bolzano’s writings into English. (Rolf, if you’re reading this, can you tell me where can I get a copy, and will you autograph it?)  The conference was also an opportunity to talk a bit about the two positions we have open here, meet a couple of people from Calgary where I got my start into philosophy, and make a few other introductions. There are a few other informal reflections on the conference over on the department friends’ Facebook group.” Very nice work, Jim!

Graduate student Cathy Gee has also been traveling. Cathy says, “I went to the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics conference on “Reason, Reasons, and Reasoning” in Flint, MI. I had an amazing time full of great people, great papers, and great food!” I’ll add that Cathy presented a new version of a paper she wrote for a seminar she took with me a couple of years ago! Great news, Cathy.

Graduate student Rosalind Abdool recently co-presented with colleagues at both Providence Health Care and St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto for the Centre for Clinical Ethics’ monthly Ethics Grand Rounds. The topic was on the ethics of a mandatory flu vaccination and the presentation explored commonly held philosophical reasons against and reasons in favor of a mandatory flu shot. The presentation also aimed at encouraging deeper reflection on the value of getting the flu shot in light of scientific evidence. Rosalind remarks: “Staff were highly engaged in this topic and appreciated an in-depth analysis of the ethics of a mandatory flu shot. There continues to be much debate surrounding this issue, and this was a wonderful opportunity to provide an overview of the arguments on both sides and to facilitate a fascinating discussion.” Very nice job, Rosalind!

Over at his blog at Psychology Today, Paul Thagard wrote a parody of the extended mind hypothesis. “The extended mind hypothesis claims that it is a mistake to identify thinking with brain processes. Analogously, we argue that breathing should not be identified with lung processes…” check it out here!

Shannon Dea writes, “I’m really fortunate that my sabbatical year at the University of Sheffield coincides with the first year of a three year Leverhulme Trust funded project on Idealism and Pragmatism (http://idealismandpragmatism.org/) headed by Bob Stern and Chris Hookway. They’ve both been really supportive of my research and have welcomed me to all of the Idealism and Pragmatism activities. We’ve had a great reading group, and a visiting post-doc, and we’ve got a new blog and a Twitter feed (I even got to invent the hashtag for the first workshop in the project). And, this past weekend saw the first of three international workshops Bob and Chris are hosting under the umbrella of the project. The workshop focused on historical connections between idealism and pragmatism — an oddball topic for many scholars but one squarely at the centre of my research. I was one of seven speakers at the workshop — the only one from Canada. My talk was entitled “Peirce, Spinoza and Absolute Idealism.” The other talks variously considered aspects of Kant’s, Hegel’s, James’s and Brandom’s (inter alia) thought. The talks were all well-attended and the discussions were both lively and productive.In a couple of days, I head to Sao Paulo to give a keynote address at the 15th International Meeting on Pragmatism hosted by the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo under the umbrella of the Centre For Pragmatism Studies. It’s a huge treat to get to share my research with so many pragmatists and historians of philosophy! (And it’s a great help to get to do so now whilst writing my monograph Peirce and Spinoza.)”

Heather Douglas has lots of different kinds of news. Heather says, “First, Alan Richardson came for a great visit! He met with lots of graduate students, including my PHIL 674 seminar students (who are reading some of Alan’s work), as well as faculty. His talk was very well attended– standing room only– and presented an interesting picture of what drove concerns over objectivity (and against what kind of subjectivity the objectivity was to defend) among the logical empiricists. His talk emphasized the role of the will in establishing a responsible epistemic attitude and the need for conventions in knowledge creation for which the epistemic subject must be responsible. Thanks to Alan for visiting!”


Alan Richardson at Heather’s house, after his talk.

Heather also says, “I had a very interesting trip to Ottawa this past week, which involved both a day-long meeting on the continuation of the Situating Science cluster grant, which has fostered efforts in Canadian science studies for the past seven year. (For more info on that project, see: http://www.situsci.ca) Then, the Science and Society 2013 conference began, where I spoke on “Science, Expertise, and Democracy.” I described both how science is valuable to democratic societies and how the public can legitimately critique specific scientific studies, either because of concerns over how a study was framed (which questions did it ask? Which did it not?) and over whether the assessment of evidential sufficiency is acceptable. My session included talks by Frederic Bouchard (Universite de Montreal) and Patrick Feng (University of Calgary), which I later tried to amalgamate into a summary given at the lunch plenary (with our own Carla Fehr). The meeting was a wide-ranging interdisciplinary effort to grapple with the complex issues of science and society, and lots of good connections were made. There was also a stunning reading of excerpts from Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen.

“Also, a paper on “The Moral Terrain of Science” has been published online in Erkenntnis. The paper describes how to think about all the moral considerations that arise in the practice of science, and considers the case of H5N1 as an illustrative example. The paper is part of a collection of papers on socially engaged philosophy of science arising from an October 2012 conference organized by Angela Potochnik at the University of Cincinnati. The entire collection can be viewed here.

“Finally, late last week, I spoke at the Canadian Association for American Studies Conference in Kitchener on the problem of loyalty among science advisors in the Nixon administration. This is the story of how Nixon disbanded his presidential science advising system and how Congress passed the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires science advising bodies and their conclusions be a matter of public record. Although the US political system is quite different than the Canadian, there are important lessons concerning the need for openness with technical advice in a democracy for both countries.”

I (Patricia Marino) also spoke at the Canadian Association for American Studies Conference. Their theme was the “Economization of Everything,” and I wrote about the way economic methodology, because it collapses the distinction between wanting and valuing, is ill-suited for public reasoning processes. It’s become common to hear that the methods of economics, because they are “cold-blooded,” are superior to those of “warm-hearted” humanism; my talk, “The Cold-Blooded Economist is a Dangerous Figure,” drew on philosophical theories about valuing and liberal neutrality to argue that this is not so.

Maybe you remember that several of our MA students, Teresa Branch, Sandie DeVries, Marian Davies, and Jamie Sewell presented a poster at the 2013 Science and Society Conference in Ottawa? It was on “Scientific information, misinformation and disinformation: The perils of open access and trust,” and I’m so glad they’ve given me permission to post it here. Download the pdf by clicking: SituatingSciencePoster-UOttawa2013. Great job, all!

Recent faculty publications:

Terrence C. Stewart & Chris Eliasmith (2013). Realistic Neurons Can Compute the Operations Needed by Quantum Probability Theory and Other Vector Symbolic Architectures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (3):307 – 308.

Upcoming items:

Chris Eliasmith will be a panel participant at this event on What Matters Now, in Hamilton November 4.

And graduate student Ramesh Prasad will be chairing a session at the upcoming International Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable in New York, NY on November 20, 2013.

Don’t forget you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website. Also, follow us on Twitter.

As always, I hope everyone is doing well, and thanks for reading!

— Patricia Marino